Scrap falconry centre: Renewed appeal to County Council
05 April 2006
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has renewed its appeal to Westmeath County Council to scrap a falconry centre at Belvedere House and Gardens in Mullingar. The centre, consisting of cages and enclosures, sees some of nature's most magnificent birds incarcerated.
Visitors to the centre have expressed their disgust at seeing birds - the epitome of freedom - being restrained. The birds, including eagles, hawks, owls and falcons, are permitted to fly during exercise sessions and daily demonstrations but for most of the time, their movements are restricted.
Disturbing photographs taken at the centre, show the birds with a short restraint attached to their feet. At feeding time, they sit on perches eating dead day-old chicks, a by-product of factory farming. They are also vulnerable to being injured by visitors. A sign at the entrance states that items are often found in the enclosures which "could have only got there by being thrown at them". "Do not throw stones or anything else at the birds," the sign adds. "A stone can injure a bird."
When we reported the situation to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, we were surprised to learn that a licence had been issued to the falconry centre to keep the birds in captivity.
Last year, ICABS turned down an invitation to attend a Birdwatch Ireland-organised event held at the venue. The guided walk through the grounds of Belvedere House and Gardens was part of a nationwide Dawn Chorus Day event to promote the beauty of birdsong. ICABS declined the invitation from Westmeath County Council's Heritage Officer in protest at the caging of the birds.
"We think it is ironic that the Dawn Chorus event which celebrates the beauty of birds is being held at a venue which finds it acceptable to keep birds in captivity," ICABS stated in a letter to Birdwatch Ireland. We have urged the bird conservation group to join us in our appeal to the management of Belvedere House to scrap the falconry centre.
Please write to Belvedere House management to express your views on the keeping of birds in captivity. Send a copy of your letter to Westmeath County Council and ask them to intervene to scrap the centre.
The County Manager
Photos: Belvedere birds in captivity
Video: Belvedere birds in captivity
Watch a video clip to see one of the birds restrained at the Belvedere House falconry centre in Mullingar.